FA8

Poagao's Journal
Saturday, September 15, 2001
I'm apparently number 12 on the World's 100 Best Real People Websites. Woo-hoo! Only 11 more poisonings to go...

I was going to go down to Taichung to see Yuan-ming and some other friends, but the weather has turned crappy due to a tropical storm storm in the region, so I think I'll just stay in and work on my book. I heard that some of Taipei's historical buildings are open to the public today, so I might go see some of those as well.

Predictably, my boss "didn't get around" to calling the one prospective replacement, so I still don't know what is going to happen as far as my trip goes. In any case, I got word from a relative of mine that my grandmother's illness has taken a turn for the worse. In the same email, I was also warned against trying to visit because my parents didn't want me there. They reportedly think that my grandfather will not be able to stand my presence. I recall the last time I visited, after I finished film school in New York, they strenuously resisted any attempt by my brother to bring along his kids, whom I haven't seen in many years, even though it was Christmas. That visit was a shambles.

I realize that they should have a say in this situation, and I also realize that I shouldn't let them get to me (I tell my sister that all the time, but she lives close to them), but I still have to admit that it makes me feel a bit sad that they see me in this way.

Friday, September 14, 2001
"Dear GeoCities Member:

"Congratulations, http://www.geocities.com/noneoyerbusiness is
very popular and has been receiving a large amount of traffic. Your
site has become so popular, in fact, that our records indicate that
you're using more than the allotted amount of data transfer we provide
for a free web site, which is 3GB/month (measured on an hourly basis)."

"In the past we have not enforced that limit, so your site has been
uneffected thus far. However, shortly, all free member sites
transferring more than the allowable data limit will be disabled
for portions of the day until usage falls to within the prescribed
limits."

"If you'd like to prevent this from happening to your site, you
may join one of our new premium services, GeoCities Pro or GeoCities
Webmaster."

This is a low blow, but then again, I expect no less from money-grubbing, pseudo-conservative, "The Children! What About the Children!", purposefully inefficient Yahoo! these days. What a change from its beginnings. I'd say more but I don't want to waste my precious bandwidth.

Several friends of mine, mostly from the newspaper, were meeting up last night at the Tavern, so I decided to ride down there after work last night. On the way, as I was waiting for the light to change next to a silver mercedes-benz that was double-parked in front of a ritzy hotel, a woman who was presumably its owner came up to me and tried to pull me away from her car.

"Don't!" she said crossly, while motioning with her hands that I shouldn't be so close to her precious vehicle in that maddening sign-language Taiwanese people break out to communicate with anyone who doesn't look Chinese. I moved ahead about a foot, but she wasn't satisfied and glared at me. Then she inspected the rear view mirror for damage and actually came close to hysteria, even though I obviously hadn't done anything to the mirror. All this time I was trying to think of a suitably withering remark, but her antics were just so hilarious I couldn't do anything but burst out laughing and give her the Taiwanese "Pai-se" salute before driving off.

Dean and Edward were already at the Tavern, and we were soon joined by Carl, Jerome and Carl's friend Lori. Lori is thinking of putting on a stage version of Star Trek, and mentioned that I was just deadpan enough to play Spock (Personally, I'd rather play a crazed Sulu from The Naked Time). I was arguing with Lori about the Nostradamus prediction, which I believe to be a hoax, when a loud, piercing whistle sounded from outside. This was immediately followed by the entry of several strangely dressed individuals. They were mostly young foreigners, dressed in the Taiwanese idea of motorcycle gang attire, but anyone from anywhere near the US would more likely associate their attire with a Disneyworld cowboy store than hell's angels. I hope they were getting paid very handsomely for what they were doing, because I can't think of anything more embarrassing.

These people all apparently had PhD's in Making Everyone In the Room Wince with Sheer Annoyance. They were purportedly promoting Corona beer, and they had a game which involved a styrofoam cup. One of the drunk Germans at the next table had the indescretion to play the game, but when he "won" (surprise!), more annoying whistle-blowing occurred, after which nobody else was willing to play the game. One of the group came by and tried to get us to play the game, but we all shook our heads vigorously in fear.

The Annoying Corona People bounced around some more as the owner of the Tavern rushed about in their wake assuring his patrons that "they'll leave in 5 minutes. I promise! Please don't leave!" The man was near tears as one of the group blew her whistle again, prompting several people to grab blunt objects and move towards her in a menacing fashion. Carl was livid, but then again Carl is often livid. Fortunately we calmed him down by mentioning the name of the paper one of our former colleagues works at now, The Bulletin, in Bend, Oregon. This invariably causes Carl to burst out in fits of giggling. Try it sometime.

Fortunately the Corona people eventually picked up on the fact that their lives were in real danger and retreated. I cannot imagine what imbecile thought that these tactics would sell beer. Probably the same guy who thought sticking a "Baby on Board" sign on a car would actually cause people originally intending to hit those cars to think twice and hit someone else instead.

Later on in the evening our old photographer from the paper, Dave Smith came by. He's living in Bangkok now and was in town to get some photos. Dave's a cool guy, and like a lot of my friends, he is Canadian. But the mediocre food, the two ginger ales (honest!) and the ass-numbing seats were taking their toll. I had to get home and sleep. Once I did, I dreamt about carrying my turtles in buckets down unending flights of dark, wet stairs. I guess I can't get my mind those damn attacks just yet.

Speaking of which, it seems that this so-called "journalist" is just echoing the same sentiment that likely had a hand in leading to the attacks in the first place. I understand she's upset at the senseless loss of her friend, but her editor should probably work harder to get more analysis and less blatant emotion. I don't know about everyone else, but when I look for news, I want to see facts and analysis, not people ranting on soapboxes. That's what weblogs are for.

A phone conversation Whiny Woman had this morning: "What?....What?....What?...." for approximately 15 minutes.

Thursday, September 13, 2001
Daniel calls this account "suprisingly under-read." Hmmm...what are you trying to say, that I need another reader? He also calls me "articulate", which is Latin for "uses way too many commas."

So much for the blurbs. I'm still waiting for my boss to call my prospective replacement and see if he is interested. Will she even call? Or will she sit on it until it's too late? I'm still paranoid, of course, because I realize that, even if people are consciously out to get me, they could still be following coded directives from either outer space or John Travolta or both.

Last night everyone in the office was called to a company meeting. I thought it was surely in response to the New York attacks, since our main office is in midtown Manhattan. Instead, it was a totally ordinary, boring meeting, with no mention of the attacks at all. The people here seemed to lack the shock part of the reaction, but instead told stories they had heard about the disaster with surprising amounts of relish. At the meeting, however, there were a couple of promotion announcements and obsequious speeches by people expressing their thanks to everyone who helped them make more money. Then they put on a crappy Japanese Beatles-wannabe music video for us to "learn" from, and I had to leave before I strangled a hapless co-worker or two.

It's a fine late-summer/early fall day today. Autumn in Taiwan tends to be relatively mild; it's my favorite season here. Since I've finished the rough rough first draft of my book, I might take this weekend off and go to Taichung or somewhere, just to get out of Taipei for a bit. I still feel compelled to finish the damn thing, though, and especially to get as much done as possible before I go on vacation, whenever I end up going on vacation. If I go in October, obviously I won't have that much time, but if I end up going in November, I'll have a reasonable amount of time to work on it before I go. Right now it's not up to me, however, so all I can do is sit around and worry that there's something still stuck in my eye.

I spent most of today, when not working, browsing various sites recounting the recent attacks on New York. This kept me pretty much depressed and shocked the whole day. But life goes on, as I'm sure many of you are realizing, no matter what. This is a story that is just beginning, of course, and while I'm interested to know what happens next, personal things inevitably intrude.

I submitted my formal application for my annual leave today. My boss said she'd send it up to her boss, who is the big boss in Taiwan. Another guy also said he could fill in for me, so I'll ask my boss to discuss the mystery salary with him tomorrow. More than likely he won't like it, but it's worth a try. Hopefully my flight is still on. Who knows what's going to happen? I sure don't.

I had dinner at a Thai restaurant this evening with Dean. I was on my motorcycle and he was on foot, so after we ate, Dean said, "Do you have an extra helmet?" I said no. "Well, let's risk it, then. Take back roads." He got on the back of my motorcycle and we were off to the 70's Airport Love Palace to watch TV.

No sooner had I turned the corner than I spotted two cops on scooters chatting on the side of the road. I had two options: either make a panic stop and throw Dean over the handlebars (no mean feat, considering Dean's, uh, inertia), or keep going and hope they didn't notice a foreigner without a helmet on the back of a motorcycle. Rather stupidly, I chose the latter. You know what happened next.

We got chased and pulled over, of course, and then Dean tried to convince the cops that it was his fault, "We were just going two feet! From here to there!" he said, gesturing, but they weren't buying. They issued me an NT$500 ticket, which Dean will pay for. This is the second ticket I've gotten in the last week or two. The post office people where I have to pay them will probably think they're dealing with some kind of confused hoodlum who is constantly breaking the law but always pays his traffic tickets.

Tuesday, September 11, 2001
Ronnie just called and said to turn on CNN. "Why?" I asked.
"Because two jetliners just plowed into the World Trade Center, which then collapsed, and jets have crashed into the Pentagon as well. It's a massive terrorist attack," he said. I walked out to the living room and turned on the TV, thinking, Ronnie has got to be putting me on. There's no way that could have happened. I'm not that gullible, am I?

Then the TV screen warmed up and glowed with a picture of a Boeing 767 flying into the World Trade Center. A huge explosion ripped out the other side.

Holy. Living. Fuck. It's true.

We don't get CNN, but it doesn't matter. All the TV stations have just one thing on. I literally cannot believe my eyes. And I have a feeling that it's not over. Ronnie hung up after saying he was going to call some other people.

It's anyone's guess what happens now.

...and the saga continues. Anika, apparently, wasn't interested in whatever the mystery salary was, so, barring any other possibilites, I'm probably going to have to postphone my trip until November. This is acceptable, even though I'll get a few less days than I would in October, but it's better than nothing. Minja , whom I've told I would name a character in one of my movies after, hinted that Aussie food is far too oily, but hopefully I'll survive. I also hear they have doughnuts! Wouldn't it be cruel, though, to bite into what you think is a chocolate-filled doughnut and find that it is in fact full of vegamite? Gah!

That would happen to me, of course. Once, when I was five, I got out a big jug of apple cider, poured myself a drink, took a big gulp and realized that it was actually vinegar. You'd think the smell would have alerted me, but I was young and foolish then. Another time I took a swig from a big glass of milk and found that it was that milk you cook with but don't drink unless Janet Reno is pointing an Uzi at your head.

The weather today is wonderful, sunny and just the right temperature, with a slight, cool breeze. The air actually smells fresh, even though it is so hazy the normally visible mountains surrounding the city are hidden from view. By contract, the conditioned office air smells stale and almost rank.

I went to the eye doctor last night, and, after determining that my ID number on my National Health Insurance card is wrong, he proceeded to extract a particle of some unknown origin from my right eye. He gave me some drops, but I found that I couldn't sleep last night, because sleep involves closing one's eyes, and if I close my eye it hurts and wakes me up. So I spent the night dosing off and then being jerked back awake by a sharp pain in my right eye.

At about 7 a.m. I gave up and went to the Adventist hospital to get in the long line of very old people to see the eye doctor there. As I gained access to the eye doctor's inner sanctum, she was admonishing an old women in Taiwanese.

"Have you been using the drops?" the doctor asked.

"No," the old woman replied curtly.

"Well, that's why you can't see!"

"I'm not used to putting drops in my eyes. I'm too set in my ways!"

The doctor gave me yet another bottle of eye drops after determining that there were no other particles of unknown origin in my eye. Hopefully tonight I'll be able to actually sleep. If not, I'll just make up some more A-lister conversations.

Monday, September 10, 2001
Oops. It turns out that Anika is not only a real person, but she is the very individual my friend Vidal said wanted to talk to me about filmmaking when he called me a couple of months ago. She even (gasp!) reads this website.

Ok, so paranoia didn't work out so well for me this time. It still has an impressive track record.

Anyway, it turns out that Anika could fill in for me at least part of the time, which might be enough. I don't know how much they pay here for part-time work, though. There's another guy interested who might be able to come in the mornings when Anika can't come in, but again, I don't know if he would be interested in the salary, since I don't actually know what the salary is. Argh! I haven't been able to wring a definite answer from the bean-counters, which means that, basically, I still don't know what's going to happen with my leave. Lorenzo managed to generate a fake confirmation number for my ticket to Perth, which should hold it for a while, but hopefully I'll know what's going on by Wednesday.

My boss said she would call Anika and discuss the pay rate. I asked what the pay rate would be, so I could tell the other guy, but my boss wouldn't tell me. "I'll discuss that with them myself," she told me. Huh? Is it classified or something?

Gee, I wish I had the time and resouces to go to Frey Day, where I could get the chance to feel alienated and be ignored by real-life A-listers! I can picture it now: me, wearing a little sticker with "Hi! I'm _____" written on it, wandering around listening to web designers talk over my head about CSS and javascript, snagging some wine and mixing it with whatever soft drink/laundry detergent was available and drinking it until I was comfortable with the conversation I was making with myself. I mean, what would I talk about with most of these people?

Me: So...(thinks)...how often do you all update your archives?

Ev: I dunno. I have a intern do that for me.

Jason: I wrote a program that would do it for me. Its IQ is higher than yours.

Meg: I network through a... -wait a minute, who are you again?

Me: Does the name "Poagao" ring a bell?

*blank stares*

Me: Ah. Ok....anyone up for stinky beancurd?

*strained silence*

Me: No? Just me then?

When I got in to work this morning, my boss called. "I think I may have found someone to take over for you when you're on your leave," she said. I picked my jaw up from the floor and asked who. "Her name is Anika, and here's her number. See if you can call her in and talk with her, to see if she can do the job."

This is a 180-degree switch from her previous stance. I can only attribute it to either hormones or a devious plan to get me to unwittingly find my own successor. I've been calling the number all morning, but no one has been answering. I am beginning to wonder if this 'Anika' even a real person. Is that even a real name? It sounds suspiciously made up. This new development has foiled my ability to make a decision on whether I can go ahead and buy tickets for October or wait and go in November.

Don't worry, I've had plenty of successful experiences with paranoia.

In the meantime, I was left wishing that my CD/MP3 player had a faster loading time after I was subjected to almost 20 seconds of Whiny Woman discussing the quality of someone's stool over the phone before the music kicked in.

Whiny Woman: "Was it thin? Thin. You know, watery? Yeah? How thin? What could you see in it? Were there, like, chunks of -" (The Wallflowers at peak volume rescue me from having to listen any further)

And now my eye hurts. It has felt like there's something in it since yesterday, but I can't find anything, and drops aren't helping. I probably scratched it again. So, in addition to all of the other shit I have to deal with, I have to do see an eye doctor as well.

Oh, my head hurts. I spent all day writing again, and I think I've finished the first, very rough draft of my book! It's almost 65,000 words long in its present form, or about 220 pages in a paperback. Needless to say, it need a huge amount of editing as well as the addition of background and explanations, but it feels good just to have reached this stage, in any case. All in all I wrote over 10,000 words this weekend, which is certainly something. Now I just need to make what I've written at least make sense and be interesting.

I am also definitely not looking forward to going to work tomorrow and staring at a computer screen all day. Except for when I went out for lunch and dinner, I've spent all day today in my room typing and typing while I stared at this damn monitor. Well, enough is enough! I'm going to bed.

I'll leave you with a picture I took of a sign near Jake's Urban Den or whatever it's called (at which, I regret to report, I will no longer be dining. The food just isn't that good any more) :

Polar Guy. Just what is that steaming hunk of meat he's holding?

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